Vatican confirms defrocking of former nuncio

Polish archbishop Josef Wesolowski found guilty of child sex abuse

Former Vatican nuncio Josef Wesolowski who has been at the centre of a church scandal for almost a year. Photograph: Erika Santelices/AFP/Getty Images

Former Vatican nuncio Josef Wesolowski who has been at the centre of a church scandal for almost a year. Photograph: Erika Santelices/AFP/Getty Images

Sat, Jun 28, 2014, 01:00

The Holy See confirmed yesterday that former Vatican nuncio Josef Wesolowski has been “defrocked” following a canonical court hearing in Rome in which he was found guilty of child sex abuse.

The Polish archbishop, who has two months to appeal the ruling, has been at the centre of a church sex abuse scandal for almost a year now.

Sex abuse allegations

Allegations of improper behaviour were made against him last year by a TV channel in the Dominican Republic, which clai- med that during his time there as papal nuncio, from 2008 to 2013, he had regularly frequented an area in Santo Domingo known for child prostitution.

Just when it appeared that investigators in both the Dominican Republic and Poland were preparing to file sex abuse charges against the nuncio, he was hurriedly recalled to Rome last August.

Last January, in response to media reports that Poland wanted to extradite the archbishop, Holy See spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that, as a Vatican City state citizen, Wesolowski would be tried in Holy See (canonical) and Vatican City state courts.

Wesolowski is reported to have been involved in five alleged “incidents” in the Dominican Republic, concerning not only minors but also Polish priests based on the Caribbean island.

The Holy See’s permanent representative at the UN in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, had confirmed at a UN hearing last month that the former nuncio was being tried in the Vatican under both canon and civil law. And last month Pope Francis had said that three bishops were on trial for sex abuse offences.

Even if it is not clear what role Francis himself had in the Wesoloswki affair, it seems certain that the decision to defrock the former nuncio bears his stamp of approval.

As for the pope himself, for the second time in the past week he withdrew from a public event when he cancelled a visit to Rome’s Gemelli hospital last night because of what the Vatican called “a slight indisposition”.